Thursday, September 1, 2011

Consumer driven food networks

Consumer driven food networks are differently named and organised in every country. At the European Society for Rural Sociology (ESRS) conference we saw many types and forms passing by in the working groups within the theme Food networks and supply chains. GAS groups in Italy, AMAPs in France, CSA’s and Community food co-ops in the UK, food coops in Germany, ‘proximity contract farming groups’ in Swiss, Grupo de consumo’s in Spain, Food teams in Flanders. Consumer driven food networks are scattered all over Europe it seems. It seems indeed but not evenly distributed. There are approximately 15 CSA’s only in the Netherlands and a very recent initiative to create food coops, called ”voko’s”. Uniquely here are the many adoption schemes; adopt a chicken, apply tree or cow. But initiatives are not booming like Italy, Spain or France. In his concluding presentation, Henk Renting offered a few factors for the non occurance of consumer driven food networks in countries such as Portugal, Greece, the Netherlands, Ireland… First of all, farm structure and the scale of farming matters. Where the farming structure is based on large scale farms integrated into the bulk supply chain it is difficult to conver to on-farm processing or direct marketing. The availability of local and/or organic products in the conventional supply chain. The existence of tradition in gardening and the way food is cultured into society.
The existence of a tradition of gardening is an interesting one. Will such a tradition inspire or hamper the establishement of consumer driven food networks? In comparative EU perspective the Netherlands has low levels of food provisioning by self-growing showed Petr Jehlicka and Joe Smith in another working group which would fit low levels of consumer driven food networks too. On the other hand, countries like Poland or Czech Republic have very high levels of food self-provisioning but low incidences of consumer driven food networks as presented by Lukas Zagata. Of course there a complex context around this but it is therefore time to start relating and researching both practices at the same time. Household food provisioning strategies are not yet on the radar of researchers working with alternative food networks.  The fact that work on household food provisioning strategies was presented at other places simultaneously to the working group on consumer driven food networks is illustrative.

Source: Sustainable Food Blog

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